In a world increasingly preoccupied with throwaway materialistic things; where people are constantly busy earning money to pay for those things, or so their children can have those things;
This is the story of my dreams of travelling the world by bicycle. Because it's there. And because I dont want to die without experiencing the truly important things in life .

A sense of wonder and a sense of adventure.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Good at Finding Things.

Well it would appear British Airways are good at finding things. As they have had so much practise.
 Pouring down one minute and sunny the next. That's Casablanca at the moment.

The changeable weather is not the only thing that is totally unpredictable at the moment. Following my last report I once again checked the lost luggage site on BA expecting to see yet again that information on my luggage was unavailable at the moment but that they were doing their best to locate it. But no!!!

The bag had been located subject to confirmation!!! Who's confirmation ? There can surely only be one Mercian Bawling its eyes out and lost in a foreign port. My boy needed me, where was he, was he damaged? I asked the hotel man to ring the BA number immediately. No reply. So we rang all the numbers at the airport and after he was off the phone he said that Mercian was at the airport waiting to be picked up!

It seemed too good to be true. So I had them call Mohamed a taxi driver I could trust. He'd been good to me when I was down the night I'd lost my luggage and we took the hours drive through Casablanca to the airport. While he waited I did the rounds of the airport looking for the retrieved luggage section. And there he was , plastic film wrapped and looking happy. BA gift wrapped him for me. Or maybe they wrapped him because there was so much damage?

No. On closer inspection of the outside of his bag and a more detailed check back at the hotel, all looked well.
My M.U.M (Mercian Urban Machine) is Back Again.

I am so happy to see him again. The baggage staff gave me no info on where the hold up had occurred and honestly I was only joking at Heathrow when I wrote in my diary that the Mercian may want to hang around in London having been brought up near there so to speak.

Adi has not yet paid for the ticket home so my journey around the world could continue from here although I would possible have to cut a little distance out of Morocco.

But. And I have thought carefully about this. I am not going to continue this trip for a number of reasons. But the main reason is because during my distress Adi was my rock. She has saved for this trip, encouraged me and been denied a part of it which was originally planned. She has endured the stress of her cat (Bob) almost dying while I was away and has now next week got to go into hospital to relieve pain in her knees and feet.

I feel if I go home now I have achieved the goal of having cycled another continent. I have not lost my bike and most importantly I can support Adi when she comes out of hospital and we may still have enough money to go on a cycle trip to Vietnam which she was looking forward too.

So that's it for the World Cycle Race but certainly not it for me and overseas touring. I have no regrets and I still have a Visa for Vietnam later in the year. Adi hopefully will be up and running for a joint trip. I certainly wont be going without her. So keep in touch with this blog if interested. ( I have unfinished buisness in China and Southeast Asia).
The Suns Out But it's Still Stormy along the Coast.

I'm coming home Adi, book me a ticket and put the jug on. O' that's right you cant walk. I'll put the jug on.

Ps. have you noticed the tv in the picture of my bike and I. Broken. Just like everything else in Sth America and so far in Morocco. I can't wait to be somewhere where stuff generally does what it should.

Thanks to everyone who has made supportive comments I appreciate it. I will be blogging as usual since my bike and I are re- united and cycling life will go on and must be reported on.. Adi and I will soon be also re united and then its back on my wheels and out on the roads.

And I wish the still racing WCR riders the best. I can now follow from the comfort of the sofa. But with a new appreciation of all that can go wrong with even the best laid plans.

From Here.

Here I am in Casablanca at my hotel. Not in my pyjamas because I still have no bike and no luggage. I have so few belongings that I could list them here for you:

Net book


Clothes I’m wearing

Credit card and a bit of cash

I now can also add to the list a tooth brush, tooth paste which I later bought realising the brush didn’t cut it alone and a shaver because apparently a tidy cyclist is a happy cyclist. At the moment a good shave has failed to make me happy so I may have to stop saying that. I suppose its debatable as to whether you can now call me a cyclist. I have the shaver so can keep my legs hairless so in my eyes I’m still a cyclist.

At the moment British airways have taken my beloved bike and gear from me. They are about to take my dream of a continuous around the world cycle from me and they have probably taken a couple years of my life from me in the stress they have generated. In another day or so they will have cost me another couple thousand dollars for a ticket home (which wont be on BA). But they can not and will not take my accomplishments so far from me, or the joy I have of cycling, and cycle touring. Once I have recovered from this I will be on a bike again and cycling.

I am too depressed to talk or think about where my bike might be. But I wont totally give up on him being re-united with me . I will wait in Casablanca for the time necessary to feel that BA has lost him for good. But you have to imagine that I feel pretty vulnerable with no gear here and no wheels at hand. And I have to arrange the flight home to alleviate these concerns. Once I have paid for the return flight obviously the around the world in one go will be over. I wont attempt it again because its too full of problems that the cyclist has no control over and also because I have already now completed so many countries. Not to mention the financial cost.

I will if no Mercian arrives, go home, support Adi during her operation and recovery, then re-group for the future cycling of individual countries.

BA you will not break me. I have unfinished buisness and further countries to cycle before I have completed my cycling exploits around the globe.

I was about to say at least my Word program is back, but it just froze again. Thanks Microsoft geeks. I've always got the word pad. Famous last words.

Its funny the sort of things that go through your head when you are alone and a bit vulnerable. Last night in bed I thought I would have to go to the NZ consulate for help when my credit cards didn't work anymore (after all everything else is down) and they kicked me out of the hotel. But I thought how would I get there with no bike or money?How would I phone them with no cell phone connection (thanks Vodafone, "yes mr niel the wheel , your phone will work in Morocco, part of Europe, isn't it")?

Then at breakfast (which is part of the room rate at the hotel), I ate my boiled egg. I hate boiled eggs as my parents forced them down me as a kid. But I thought, Niel, this could be your last bit of food for awhile don't waste it.

Now just in case some of you are thinking that Niel should be happy that he is in sunny hot Casablanca I should tell you at this point that yes I am on the coast and can see the sea and a no. of palm trees. But that's as far as the tourist image goes. It is in fact pretty cold at 14C, windy and raining. My coat and booties are comfortably nestled next to my bike somewhere between here and Rio.

No the Lens isn't Dirty there's a Storm Coming in.

Later if the sun comes out I will walk to the lighthouse. But wouldn't contemplate throwing myself in because then I wouldn't be around to watch BA meet financial ruin as more customers end up like me. (Its only now that on searching the internet for my stuff that I see they are one of the worst airlines for loosing peoples belongings. You'd think in that case they'd be good at finding them again wouldn't you?)

I leave you for now with the photo of sunny Casablanca.

Friday, 27 April 2012

The End?

The End?

So I have by now posted my Rio blog. How things can change so quickly when you are trying to do something like this. Its difficult to explain to anyone who hasn't tried it how hard it is to cycle a country when you cant speak the language and the customs are all foreign to you.

Let me explain what has happened in the last 24hrs or so.

I got to the airport in Rio at 10am even though my flight out wasn't until 10pm as I had seen Rio and thought I may as well wait at the airport and be early and not rushed. I was first in the qeue after waiting until the 7pm check in. My bike with all my gear wrapped inside was accepted and I boarded the flight relaxed and happy to be on my way.
At the Airport in Rio and Ready to Go.

We arrived in Heathrow and once again I had 4hrs before the connecting flight to Casablanca. All through my wifi played up so only now can I post this blog. However for the first time in 2 months my vodafone cell phone decided to work and I sent a happy txt home to Adi. I enjoyed being in an English speaking country for the first time and jokingly hoped my Mercian wouldn't desert me and stay in the country it was built. I had no luggage to cart around as it had been checked right through to Casablanca on British Airways.

It was a long flight and I was worried about getting to the Hotel in Casablanca with the bike. I had already decided since I arrived at 10pm that I would just throw everything in a taxi and pay whatever it was to be taken there. I didn't want another set of hassles like my arrival in Lima.

Then the nightmares started. Stress never seems far away for me in this adventure. After a long flight and now in a new country and foreign airport my baggage did not arrive! So except for my carry on bag everything I have is missing. The lost baggage people do not speak English. But I manage to explain what has happened and they take the details. But they cannot find the bike and gear. So alone I make my way from the airport, get some cash from the machine and out to a taxi. I don't know the exchange rate at this stage but have an idea in Moroccan money how much I should be charged to the Hotel.

I arrive at the Hotel totally devastated. How can I explain the feeling of being totally without anything , not being able to explain this to anyone and needing to know what to do and get some reassurance. The hotel staff don't speak English. But at least I am booked and checked in. I switch on the computer to see if I can get wi fi. Its the only way I can let Adi now whats happened. I could just cry my eyes out but what good would it do. I just need to make contact with someone who will understand and can help me.

Thank God the wi fi works and I send a message to Adi and my travel agent asking what I should do. I go to bed with no reply and try to sleep. Eight hours later when I wake up and check my messages there's nothing from Adi. But one reply from my travel agent. I open it with relief to find it is a note saying she's in Aussie for a week. Trying not to panic and thinking off all the reasons Adi may not have replied I pace about and get the reception staff to ring the airport baggage staff. They do and are told the system is down so they cant check anything.(All this is done by sign language)

I go back to the computer and thankfully Adi has replied asking what the problem is? And I thought I had explained it 8hrs before in the email. So we go back and forth but Adi managed to get hold of another travel agent who calmed me by saying that the luggage was being traced. And if I had to he could arrange tickets home.

The feelings I have are so hard to explain. But amount basically to feeling incredibly vulnerable. I have lost my bike which is so dear to me and all my gear. Not only is it the whole reason I am here but in my eyes my only way out and home. So I needed to know that the agent could get me tickets home if the bike doesn't turn up.

At this stage I would like to say that if anyone suggests I just get another bike and everything here then they don't know Casablanca or in fact how difficult it would be to do that in English speaking NZ let alone here. (By the way they speak French here). So if the gear doesn't turn up in a couple of days I suppose its all over.

I don't Know what to bawl about first. The loss of my bike, missing home and Adi so much or just the general loneliness I feel.

Anyway its hard to blog about it and I have been told by the receptionist at the hotel "Airport say no luggage today try tomorrow"
Lost And Depressed.

Out now to get a razor and tooth brush.

But before I go two things are clear to me. You are all right in foreign countries where you don't speak the language until things go wrong, and then you can be in a power of shit. And the other thing is, family and friends are so important. I only have a very small family caring about me and my friends are all a long way off.

I suppose that's why they say travel broadens the mind.

Departing Rio

I did it!!!

I'm in Rio de Janiero after completing Stage 1. of the bike race and my 'around the world' adventure. Here I am at the backpackers writing this blog for the second time because those little twirps at Microsoft who constantly send me up dates of programs( because they've got nothing better to do) have corrupted my Word while it downloaded yet more tripe. Why don't they realise that some people have got productive jobs or other things to do and we don't want to constantly waste time having our computers tied up with time waster's dribble. That goes for virus protection geeks as well.

So my first copy was a literary masterpiece but now that I have to redo it on my notepad, because its all I've got, you will have to put up with a summary.
I,m There.

I would not recommend anyone cycle across South America unless they like a bit of hardship. And I wont be repeating the exercise. So all my friends who procrastinated on whether to join me and feel now that there's something missing from their lives and they would like some adventure and exciting cycling, you can do it on your own the way I did it.

The last 7 weeks have been a cultural challenge, a mental challenge, and a physical challenge. In brief. I suffered from the moment I arrived in Lima on a Friday night in the dark and had to cycle in such strange surroundings into the city to find accommodation. I've never felt so lost and alone as I did for those first couple of days. Looking back I don't know how I got through it. (well I do know. Because I had too.)

Cycling across the Andes was such an achievement but mentally it was tough. Once again alone and facing tough climatic conditions and altitude. Cycling through snow storms really scared the jeebies out of me. I might like riding my bike up hill but I'm no alpine person. Whiteouts and snow while cycling don't go down well with me especially when the only other people around don't speak my lingo, and look like they could survive a Siberian winter without batting an eyelid.

Roll on Bolivia and the 100's of kms that I cycled on rock strewn dirt roads, some of which had been partially washed away in the wet season which had just ended. Riding in hot , dry and dusty conditions only to reach a town to find there's no accommodation, and once again its rice and chicken for dinner. (And I felt lucky getting that). At one point 10kms from my destination that night and having only 40mins light left (averaging 10km/hr on the rough road) I cracked and flagged down the first truck I had seen in 2hrs for a lift. Luckily he couldn't take me as he was full of farm workers and there was no room for Mercian). There were co cars on these roads as the ruts where too deep. I made it in the dark but vowel ed I wouldn't give in again. Physically that was the hardest cycling I've ever done. Trying to get a loaded touring bike through there in one piece was no holiday.

Its funny , I could tell how poor a place was by the rice and chicken meals I could get my hands on. In Peru my chicken was fat and juicy. But in some parts of Bolivia it was more bone than meat. By the time I got to Brazil chicken was off the menu and I could get beef.

But I'm here in Rio, and for the next few days I'd like to replace my tyres, chain and cluster on the Mercian and wash everything I can ready for stage 2. I feel happy to be here but also sad because I know I'm not going home but on to Morocco and more unknowns. But at least I can tell myself that Europe should be more familiar and the cycling more predictable as I've cycled there a lot before.
Got a New Cluster and Chain.

The weather as I've mentioned has been perfect. It's the one thing that I've had going for me. But would you believe it, now I've arrived its pouring down. I will wait hopefully a day or two to get sunny pictures of Rio for my records.

There's no Wi Fi here (or those microsoft geeks have screwed that up as well) but will post when I can.(Probably McD tomorrow). Its good to be at the backpackers because finally I can chat in English to some people and explain what I've done. I will be able to celebrate in company. Two people I've talked to so far have been to my home town of Nelson, NZ. A Chinese girl from Hong Kong and Jade Man. I call him that because he is obsessed with Greenstone. Although he shuns that word.

That Mercian of mine is a grubby wee girl. Its always at the end of cycle tours or in this case the end of a stage that I have to sneak her into my room and de-grease and polish her. I have to admit as careful as i am I have managed to get grease on some of the nicest hotel furnishings around. I don't think that the YWCA hotel in Sydney will ever have us back when she dripped on their carpet. In Paris there's a hotel near the Sacre Coer with grease spots all over the carpet that I walked in on my jandels after said bike dropped grease right where I would walk on it. And now in Rio she's marked the wall. I mean how did she manage to do that!

Tomorrow I will continue to look for a bike shop and will post this at MacD. Then I'll throw my travelling companion in her bag (this time at the backpackers) and then into a taxi, and we're off to the airport and on to round two.

Tomorrow is now today and I have had success on the bike shop front after asking a roadie for his advice. He showed me the bike shop and with the help of a bit of sign language I have procured a chain and cluster. I'm pleased with my decision before I left home to go with an 8 speed set up. These parts have been easy to source. But as for the tryes I 'm using (over 6300kms and not a puncture, awesome), from what I've seen of the bike shops so far, I'd have more chance of winning the Bolivian Lottery. Hopefully the tyres will last until Spain.
Mercian all Clean and Ready to Go.

Tonight in my room under the cover of darkness I will whip the old cassette and chain off, clean the Mercian, and put my new transmission on.

No luck with Wi Fi. Maybe at the airport on the way out. Ciao.




























































































































Monday, 23 April 2012

No Wi Fi for me in Rio

Im in the Backpackers in Rio and can you believe it I cant get WiFi. They have WiFi but my netbook doesnt like it.
Ive tracked down McDonalds and they have WiFi too! But my netbook is fussy it seems because it doesnt like their signal either.
So I have a post and I have some pictures but you will have to wait until I get just the right signal that my netbook finds acceptable. Im hoping that may be at the airport on the way out to Casablanca. Also with a bit of luck Vodofone may actually have a partner in Morocco because they certainly dont in South America and then I may be able to be able to use that piece of worthless junk Ive carried across the continent. Called a Vodafone cell phone. "O yes Mr Niel the Wheel, youll be ble to use our phone in Peru and Brazi, no problem"

Little cell phone geeks really dont know anything except where their next party is at.

Im optimistic that it will work onceI get to Europe proper, because they are a european company ???

And the netbook. Well Im a bit concerned that the last microsoft update ( more worthless geeks) has messed with it. We will see.

By for now.

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Atlantic Coast Was in View.

In my last blog I was a few hundred kilometres from the coast and I had just met Marcios and he had explained about the little monkeys of Brazil.

Since then I have cycled to the coastal range which separated me from my primary objective of reaching the Atlantic and being able to say that I had cycled from coast to coast.
A Litre of Yogurt Before Hitting the Pay Booth.

Just prior to this I had my last bit of fun on the dual carriage way and the staff of the pedagio’s. The pedagio’s are the toll booths that I have passed through since starting the ride in Lima, Peru. If I had had to pay for the use of the roads I would have been forking out $2-$3NZ a go every time I came across one of these. In Peru and Bolivia they are even on what would seem minor roads and some that they should have been paying me to cycle on. Anyway I soon learnt that cyclists don’t pay. Despite the occasional booth operator calling out to me something that sounded like “Hay come back and pay you skinny legged, burnt nosed foreigner”. In Brazil you can have a bit of fun with them by riding like a mad fart straight towards the most expensive entry (which is the truck entrance and the one most on the right side) and then as the girl comes out of the booth shouting you via off to the coned off area and then along the footpath where your supposed to be shouting “pardon I don’t speak Spanish.”

As I cycled along after these very predictable episodes I wondered why they bothered to come out running as you approached the lane and I think it’s because once you hit the strip the computer will immediately charge you for your visit. And I suspect that they have no way to take the visit off. I never went all the way so to speak because they’d no doubt then want to charge me, for good reason. Fun and games.
Down the Range to the Atlantic.

Yesterday I climbed this range and into the cloud before finally taking the plunge down the other side and out to the Atlantic. What a plunge it was. Mercian and I plunged down very steep roads for about 12kms dropping I would say 1100mtrs. Now I wasn’t going to say this, but I will. This decent was so extreme that I blew the rear tyre despite using both brakes, resting front and back where possible and not overtaking anything. It was a real bugger for two reasons, up until then (6000kms) I hadn’t had a puncture and also because it was a 170km day I didn’t have a lot of time to piss about. So I’m not calling that a puncture because it was self-induced and I got around the time problem by missing out on lunch. As it was I had to do the last 5kms in the dark. This is not recommended on Brazilian roads. But in the interests of getting a bed for the night and dinner I did it. I should say that I have got lights but couldn’t be bothered getting them out. Up until now except on my first night in Lima I haven’t had to use them. I don’t intend to use them either. If I can’t ride the distance in daylight then I’m just riding too far.
I Could See It!

I have found from a fitness point of view though that I have reached the point where I can ride for as long as I like as long as there’s sufficient daylight.

Imagine my delight yesterday at seeing the coast and sea for the first time in 7weeks! As a New Zealander I am used to always being close to the coast. But in this instance I have suffered more than any other tour so to get across was such a delight. Unfortunately with the pressures of limited daylight and lack of time for food I really couldn’t enjoy it until today when I had a mere 99kms to ride to a town called Angra dos Reis.
And then I was There.

So I took the time today to enjoy and take photos. The coast here 157km South of Rio De Janiero is so similar to the West Coast of the Sth Island of New Zealand it almost made me homesick. It’s also similar to the Top of the Sth Island NZ where I am from. Of course at 30C it’s a might warmer than NZ generally is.

As happens in cycle travel you never quite know how the day will pan out, and on arriving in Angra dos Reis  I picked a Hotel which I thought looked affordable. Upon inquiry found out that it was fairly expensive at about $170NZ a night but that the price included lunch (which I had time for), dinner, breakfast and everything in the mini bar. It’s so hard to say O’ no too much I’ll just go back out into the heat and look all over town for something cheaper. I have done tis a couple of times and both times ended up back at the hotel with my tail between my legs. So this time since it was the last hotel before Rio where I have backpackers booked I said, “Hell yes, show me the minibar and then I’m hitting the restaurant for lunch”.

And of course it has Wi-Fi so you are hearing from me.
An Easy Day to Let it Sink in. I'm Here.

O’ and Karen if you are reading this I would gratefully accept your donation of a room somewhere on my travels to this hotel. Not only will you be putting a roof over your brothers head but filling my tummy which at times this trip has been neglected somewhat. In fact I will raise my glass to it now. Thanks again for following my travels and supporting me.

Tomorrow I have about 160kms to pedal on my last days cycling in Sth America Then I will roll into Rio. I’m going to have to get up early I think as I have to get to Rio with enough light to find the backpackers. I’m sure that it won’t be easy, but just another hurdle to be jumped. I can’t leave without my free breakfast though! I’ll try to get away by 7am.
If it Wasn't for the Towns, the Coast is similar to Top of The South NZ.

Then once I arrive I will stop the clock as I will be awaiting my flight to Morocco on Wed 25th April. So I have a few days to see Rio, tune and clean the Mercian and in fact clean everything ready for Leg2 Europe. And of course I will blog again to finalise a continental crossing I will never forget.

Until then. (If you don’t hear from me then it will be because my backpacker’s is so cheap they don’t have Wi-Fi)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

A Friend in Brazil.

I want to thank everyone that has put comments on my Facebook  time- line page. I have up until now not known they were there! There’s just so many ways people can comment about my trip. I’m notified when I get a comment on my blog and a message on Facebook but until today when Jane put a derogatory comment about my manhood on my timeline I hadn’t looked at that section of fb.

I’ll try to keep an eye out in the future.

You can probably tell from my more regular posts that I am well out of frontier land and back in the modern world of Brazil. Wi-Fi and petrol stations abound. There’s no problem now getting ice-cream. Although today I had trouble swallowing it. I pulled into what I thought was a regular gas station come truck stop only to discover that there wasn’t a shirtless Truckee anywhere to be seen. I should have at that stage been suspicious but as a thirsty foreigner lusting yet another vanilla spider I took little notice. On entering the premises two things did however register. Well actually three things. Firstly there was a sign of a hairy shirtless trucker on the door with a red band through it indicating that my road friends weren’t welcome without their clothes on. (I immediately zipped up my cycle top).

Secondly there were shelves of corn products and cowboy type boots everywhere. Numerous jars of corns, dried corn, corn chips and pictures of corn. Looking outside I did then notice that this was perhaps a corn growing area. By the way how was our corn at home Adi? I never got to eat any of it before I left.

Thirdly, I noticed no ice-cream fridge which was most disturbing to me, until I did spot a coke fridge and a snow freeze machine behind the counter. I grabbed my coke and in true Niel fashion could not make myself understood regarding  getting a big snow freeze. I mean if I’m pointing at the snow freeze machine and shouting” gelato por favour” at the top of my voice surely even a teenager with five years at secondary school can understand that!

Eventually I got my snow freeze but I don’t know if it was a joke on the part of the snow freeze girl or just some plan by management that has gone horribly wrong, but my snow freeze was corn flavoured. I don’t know how many of you out there have had a corn flavoured ice-cream but I assure you it tastes nothing like banana. In fact it’s bloody horrible. And when you make a coke spider out of it it’s no better. This is really surprising because, by and large, coke works with everything. But not corn ice-cream.

As an aside I have found that coke goes very nicely with cornflakes for breakfast though. You have to improvise when you can’t get milk. The cornflakes are already full of sugar and the coke fizzes up a treat.
A Friend in Brazil. Marcio.

After the corn fiasco I was busy riding along, keeping my head down minding my own business when a road racy named Marcio rode along beside me and started talking to me in English. I haven’t had an extended chat in English with anyone for about 5 weeks. So it was great to explain to him what I was up to and find out a few things from a local. Marcio was a nice guy and offered to be there for me if I needed anyone in an emergency while in Brazil. I really appreciated that and he was impressed that I had virtually cycled across the continent in 6weeks. After explaining my route he then pointed out that I had gone through some pretty doggy and dangerous places. And I don’t think he was referring to the wild animals. It’s always good to hear that you have survived bad places after you have been there.  He did however tell me to avoid a couple of places between here and Rio but for the life of me I now forget we they were. O well just have to keep my head down and bum up.

The one disappointing thing that Marcio explained to me was that the whistles I had been hearing all along the way from Bolivia, and had jokingly told you all were local kids trying to get my attention (but secretly holding out hope that they were Latino women complimenting my physic) were in fact small monkeys that live in the trees and make fun of cycle tourists passing by.

So thank you Marcio for the chat, support, and for destroying an old man’s dream.

It wasn’t until we swapped contact details that I now realised that Brazilians will be reading my blog before I leave the country. Is it too late to say I didn’t mean what I said about Brazilian drivers?

No in full honesty South America has been good to me and thrown out some real physical challenges. Role on Rio.
Marcio this is the link to the World Cycle Race

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Weather.

Now that I’m rounding up the last week or so of cycling across South America I feel it’s safe to talk about the sort of weather I’ve had. Call me superstitious but I don’t like to test fate by saying prematurely that the weather has been great.

But the weather has been great! Before I left I was worried not only about the likelihood of constant rain (as Bolivia was suffering its heaviest rain for years), but also the high chance of consistent head winds. I really didn’t know what the predominate wind direction was across the continent but felt sure that whatever way I was going the wind would be blowing the other way.
Dont Laugh. That Body has Suffered. Sitting in a Cold Shower.
Taking in 2Ltrs of Medicine.

Well  Sth America has been good to me. Except for the snow storms crossing the Andes (and let’s face it you can’t expect toasty nice-ites at that altitude) I have been blessed with light winds and sun, sun, sun. In fact so much sun that my face was peeling and my lips were bleeding. So much sun that the locals thought I was a homeless man and little kids told me I should stop drinking booze and get a job. Well I think that is what they were trying to say. It’s funny really I bought a couple of beers because it was the only shop selling anything on Easter day and then these kids started jabbering on about me drinking it. Being kids of course I just ignored them until they started to really annoy me. I then told them that being the King of New Zealand I was entitled to drink beer in any country I chose except Australia, because my rule doesn’t extend there.

I thought later that they may have been saying that because it was Easter I wasn’t allowed by Brazilian law to drink beer. Or maybe Gods law on Easter forbid it. Well I don’t believe in God and I had a stamp from the nice Brazilian customs girl saying I was welcome in Brazil and could get as pissed as a fart as long as I continued to ride on the right hand side of the road.

The only other explanation, since I had bought the beer from a young girl herself, was that it was indeed not a shop and was actually her father’s beer fridge. This could have been the case as homes and shops in the country do look at times similar and having no language I have got into the habit of going straight to the fridge and grabbing what I want.

Anyway I digress and it makes me thirsty talking about it. So my body has taken a hammering from the sun, a bit of dehydration and early stomach problems either brought on by the altitude or buggy food.

What I really like about the heat which is constantly hitting 33C is the ability I have to just wash my cycle gear after riding each day and then without wringing it out just hang it up. If it’s not dry by morning it doesn’t matter you just put it on wet. So refreshing. The other thing I love is being able to get in virtually cold showers and just loving the coolness after a day dripping sweat all over your top tube. A day where your Brooks saddle is working like a little Trojan to absorb all that bum sweat. Imagine sliding all over a synthetic seat in these conditions.

O’ and ice-cream and coke never tasted so good.

What I hate about this climate is needing  another cold shower 10 minutes after your first because you feel all hot and sticky again. I hate not being able to eat chocolate because quite frankly what’s the point in eating sticky chocolate. I love the coffee in Brazil, but to me a coffee is much nicer when its 12degrees C and not 32degrees C.

I have been caught in the odd tropical shower which was very pleasant especially with mudguards as you don’t have to worry about road crap. But managed to out-run a couple of really heavy thunderstorms. I feel now sitting in my 30degree C room that the thunderstorms would have been really nice to ride through as well, but I did it for my Mercian. I thought he’d suffered enough on this leg of the trip and I didn’t want all the drivetrain and bearings getting a total water blasting.

So I will enjoy my final week near the equator and drink cold stuff. But I have checked the temperature in Europe.  Being spring there, it doesn’t look too hot. Boy am I looking forward to ‘not so hot’

Some people are never happy are they?

Thursday, 12 April 2012

I Have Feared for My Life.

The last couple of days have been so dangerous to my life and limb I thought I'd do a quick blog warning other travellers about the perils of driving or cycling in South America. And of course I can only talk here about Peru, Bolivia and Brazil.

Let me start with my experiences of Peru. Peruvians I soon realised will drive on any part of the road that is clear of sand, pot holes vehicles or other obstructions. If this means that they are driving on the wrong side of the road will then thats just , really no problem. Throw in that they will pay little attention to traffic lights and you'd think you'd have a recipe for ultra carnage. But as long as I kept my eyes open for cars overtaking at me and for cars and trucks cutting corners I really felt reasonably safe. In fact going down hills trucks and others I found overly cautious to the point of pissing me off. In these instances you'd find me overtaking two trucks at once and way hanging out all over the place.

When I got to Bolivia things really didn't change greatly except that the trucks (and cars where there were any) were more regularly broken down or suffering some other terminal illness. Vehicles parked up with grease stained Bolivians lying under them. Drivers were even more carefull as the roads were atrocious and breakdowns were expensive so best avoided. I saw tyres we would send to the tip being put on trucks because the tyre being replaced was in a thousand pieces all over the road.

Now, roll on Brazil!!!

Well F... me. From the moment I crossed the border I immediately noticed two things. The first was the fact that the roadside verges weren't strewn with litter as they had been in Peru and Bolivia. (in fact for the first couple of days I figured they must be employing poor Bolivians to clear up). But no Brazilians drop less litter. On a par with NZ. I think actually they're better here.

The second thing I noticed was how fast they drive. And for the last few days I have been on a road that has a shoulder of a metre but its been so rough I couldn't ride on it. So I have been dicing with death as mianiac truck drivers overtake each other as traffic comes the other way. Car drivers pay no regard to speed limits or road conditions. They just drive flat out in VWs that I'm sure were never designed to travel at the speeds they are doing! All they care about is avoiding all the people overtaking coming towards them. And as I say if they have to hit the road shoulder its all over as its tyre shredding rough.

Put NZ drivers or boy racers out there on drugs and you've got Brazilian drivers. I honestly couldn't live here as I'd be too scared to travel anywhere. I dont know what the road toll is but its got to be way up there.

For the next few days I am on SP300. Thank God it's a dual carriageway like a motorway with a good shoulder and the two flows of traffic are separated. Its the sort of road I usually avoid as you see nothing of the countryside and the road looks like every other highway around the world. Some of my competitors in the global race have chosen a lot of these roads as you can do high kms on them. They're welcome to them. But for the next few days I will rejoice at not worrying what is about to attack me from behind. I will just smoothly click off some kms and put my brain in neutral.

I rolled into my intended location tonight reasonably calm after a traffic free day on the motorway. 160kms done and about 40mins of daylight left to find a Hotel. Don't you just hate it when the toffs at an up market Hotel tell you they haven't got any rooms just because they see you pull up on a bicycle. That's what happened to me and I was pissed and would have told the little scum pots what I thought of them if I knew the language. The pressures on around here because it gets dark so quickly. Anyway after not telling the little plicks what i thought of them I jumped on trusty Mercian (that is probably worth more than their car) and kept riding around until I found the Grande Hotel, that is not at all grande but does have everything I need and a slow  WiFi connection.

So I will post this if I'm lucky. But if there are spelling errors its because the pc is too slow to spell check. The sacrifices we have to make.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Pet Hates.

I thought I’d write a quick blog while I remember about two things that when I started this tour of South America that really pissed me off;

The first thing was vehicles tooting at me in Peru and Bolivia.

In Peru and Bolivia the car, truck, motorbike and cyclists toot at everything. Don’t take it personally is what I have learnt and don’t bother waving or in fact acknowledging the tooting in any way. In fact once they’ve tooted at you they will be tooting at the cow or dog down the road or for that matter the used plastic bag blowing in the wind.

So after a week you will be totally oblivious to it.

Along with the tooting in Peru and Bolivia I have learnt to totally ignore anyone whistling at me. The locals in these countries if they aren’t in reach of a horn will whistle to get your attention. My advice is to totally ignore them since in our culture you whistle at dogs and not humans. In fact for me it’s rude to whistle at a human. So don’t encourage them by turning around.

Along with that in Peru you will get people, mainly kids shouting out “hey gringo”. Same advice. Ignore them, as even if you were to respond they can’t speak English anyway so will be of no help to you when you are hot and looking for a hotel or camping spot.

The only people I do respond too are people saying hola or hello or if they go to the bother of waving. (See I’m not a complete bastard).

The Brazilians are not so horn tappy so it’s not such a problem here. I still ignore it through force of habit. Usually here they are actually saying hello. But I have to say as I’m labouring up a hill in 35degree C I couldn’t give a rat’s arse. So I still ignore it. (See I am a bastard after all)
Yes. I'm A Cyclist. Have You Not Seen One Before.

The next thing that really used to piss me off did not happen in Peru or Bolivia but started in Brazil. And Adi and I used to get it a lot in Italy when we cycled there. And that is people staring at me. Now in the past it used to really piss me off because my parents brought me up thinking that it is rude to stare. So I either stare right back or when that doesn’t work I explain to the starrers in English that they are right to stare at me because I am one of a kind. I am Niel the Wheel and am famous for cycling the seven continents. Or I make up some other tripe about how they should take it all in because they will probably never again cast eyes on the king of the South Island of New Zealand. When you start making games like that it actually becomes really funny. One day I will meet a starrer that speaks English but it hasn’t happened yet.

Road Kill!

I spent my rest day in Corumba searching and downloading some maps of my route to Rio De Janiero. I could have spent it in the pool at the hotel but felt that I needed to do mundane things like wash all my clothes, clean my bike and go out in the heat and find some food. I’m now trying to stuff more food down myself to try to replace lost body mass.

It was then early to bed since today I had a 230km ride to Miranda the next town. The reason there are no towns between Corumba and Miranda became very clear as I cycled off Eastwards the next day at dawn ( 6am).

The Brazilians call it the Pantanal area. It’s basically a swampy jungle inhabited by all manner of nasty’s you can imagine might like swamp. Here I am on my bike knowing that I have 12hours of daylight and then at 6pm sharp the lights go out and I’m in the tent with emergency food wherever that may happen to be. Totally preoccupied with working out what my average speed needed to be to accomplish the mission and actually get to Miranda and a hotel for the night I run over something unusually big on the road? Up until this point I was concerned not to stop as I knew that I would be ravaged by mosquitos. It was much like riding across Australia where I basically rode without stopping all day so as not to be attacked by flies.

So where was I? I ran at that point over something really big! Was that an alligator I just ran over?!!!
Lucky I Didn't Lose a Pannier Hitting That Alligator.

It’s not every day you run over an alligator when out on a Ride! I hope that alligator wasn’t a protected species. Luckily for me and my bike someone else had already run over him so he was quite dead. I then stopped thinking about mossies’ and thought how Adi had put freedom camp half way along here! I’m thinking where there are alligators there are probably other thick skinned creatures like snakes. My mind is racing to think of all the reptiles that might inhabit this sort of terrain and it wasn’t pretty.

At this stage I’m thinking maybe that was just a one off alligator. Then upon looking at the roadside pools more carefully I could clearly see gaggles of the scally  critters.
Alligators Everywhere. Nice Camping Spot??

What I should have been doing was concentrating more carefully on where I was riding.

Was that a Jaguar that I almost ran over!!!! Now that’s got to be an endangered species. Luckily for me, and not so lucky for pussy, was that someone had already run over him too. Now I’m thinking I’m in serious wilderness here. This is no out to Brightwater and around the Tapawera circuit. By the end of the day I had added to my list; condors, some kind of vultures, big birds that looked like pelicans, deer and big chunky warthog types. Not to mention but I will; more scaly thick skinned fellas like armadillos and multiple termite and crane nests.
No Not a Stuffed One.

 My parents should have taken me to the zoo more often when I was a kid. I might then be able to properly identify the creatures Adi wanted me to freedom camp with. At least I thought there’d be no bears out here.

Anyway pedals spinning, there was no way I was freedom camping out here. By 5.45pm and just on dark I was in Miranda and checking into the first ‘cheap’ hotel I could find.

I was really pleased to have completed the 230km journey in the daylight time allowed. But it was in my mind inevitable that the ride would be successful when at the 140km mark I came across a little park shop selling 1ltr tubs of ice-cream and cold coke. My friends know that I can ride indefinitely on ice-cream and coke.

Even though I’m still out in the wilderness in Brazil, two things that I have noticed give me a warm feeling. The first is along route there are power pylons. Power pylons to me mean only one thing. Somewhere up ahead there is a town and they have enough power to really cool down a can of coke. No drinks in chilly bins (the Bolivian way). Secondly the shops actually sell food! And if that isn’t good enough I can buy high calorie food like dairy products (yogurt, and cheese).

I think things are looking up. My money doesn’t go so far but at this stage I just want to eat things.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

I'm in Brazil!


I’m out of Bolivia and into Brazil.

Bolivia made up to me in the end for the horrendous roads North of Sucre. But it wasn’t without some considerable worry on one particular day.

I left Santa Cruz heading east for the 600km road heading for the border.  All was going swimmingly as I got onto said road and the sign informed me that this was the new expressway between Bolivia and Brazil. I happily started cycling along a concrete road that was more akin to an aircraft landing strip than a road. But I was not complaining after previous Bolivian roads and I had a light tail wind. Day one ended with no accommodation on offer but a roadside restaurant said that I could camp out the back. So that’s what I did.

The next day, complete with light tail wind I happily cycled Eastwards on my concrete road devoid of virtually any traffic except myself and the occasional truck. In fact there was so little traffic that I really started feeling a little lonely. Just forest on either side and hot at 32 Degrees C. In a bit of a daze due to the heat and boredom of it all I suddenly came across a sign that said that the seal was ending in 500m! I just couldn’t believe it!!!!!

There was a barrier across the road and the workmen said no road for 40kms!!! My new road had not been completed yet. They said “deviation”. I said “No f… way”!
New Seal on my Landing Strip.

So they relented and let me ride on the dirt of the new Expressway (yet to be completed). For 30kms I road on the dirt. However because they were working on it and had diverted all the other vehicles another way it was quite smooth and to my relief I could still make 20km/hr.  After 30kms I came across a work gang sealing it. They offered me water which was really needed as there were no towns or other forms of civilisation along this road. I then road 10kms on sticky seal which was only marginally better than the dirt and then low and behold I came across the concrete machines laying the new concrete landing strip!! And I was on it. The workmen all gave me the thumbs up and I was the first vehicle using the Bolivian – Brazil expressway. Some politician will probably open it this season but I’ve already muddy tyred it!

The following days were all the same. Forest and concrete expressway with virtually no traffic. In the evenings I made the odd small town along route and got dinner and usually a room in a cheap Hotel.
A Concrete Road to Brazil. All For Me!

The only really odd thing I must mention, and research when I get home, were the religious farmers I encounted along this route. They looked like a cross between the Brethren and Amish farmers. They were of European decent and dare I say it looked somewhat inbred. Certainly totally different from the Bolivians. Frontier farming families. They even drove horse and carts although plenty of them turned up in utes at the roadside restaurants so they certainly were’nt against the auto.

 Very strange and more than a bit creepy.

Today I reached the border with Brazil and passed through without trouble.
Not a Great Picture. But it's Brazil.

I’ve found a Hotel in the border town of Corumba. The difference is immense with the town having sealed streets and shops! There’s even supermarkets! Unfortunately you can’t have everything and things are now more expensive with a can of coke actually costing $1.60NZ . I could buy 2litres of coke for that in Bolivia and they’d throw in a packet of biscuits. But then tonight for dinner I actually had beef instead of chicken and rice from a roadside stall!

Some things though are still too hard. I need a map of the road to Rio De Janiero. This is a fare size town and so far no joy. Tourist office? What Tourist Office.

Book Shop?” No. This is a book shop we don’t have maps”!